A Harmful Secret
When I was a kid, I'd go fishing with my dad — even though I wasn't fond of it. I didn't like getting on the lake before the sun rose (doesn't it seem wrong to anyone else to wake up before the sun?!), and I didn't enjoy the boredom of casting, reeling, casting, reeling, casting, reeling into oblivion.
But I went fishing because I enjoyed being with my dad.
My young, underdeveloped brain instinctually grasped something profound. Fishing wasn't about catching fish but connecting with dad.
So, I went fishing.
Childish Views of Prayer
Many Christians try to keep a secret. At times, we just don’t pray. We talk around this by saying things like, "I don't have a set prayer time but talk to Jesus throughout my day." Or we kind of own it by admitting with eyes downcast, "I need to work on praying more."
But when the filters turn off, the shame calms down, and honesty comes out, I hear:
Prayer is boring.
Is anything happening?
What's the point?
Like a bored child stuck on a painful feedback loop (casting, reeling, casting, reeling), we give prayer lip service because we don't believe it's worth our time.
The first step to maturing our view of prayer is to own our little secret. We don't pray because we are more result-orientated than relationally connected to God.
Let's go fishing for wisdom here.
Prayer as Fishing
My father and every other old-timer who picks up a pole have set their hooks into another secret — fishing heals trauma.
In the landmark book The Body Keeps The Score, we learn that rhythmic play calms and repairs our central nervous systems. Put more simply, activities — like the back and forth of casting a line — untangle your frazzled inner world, calming you like a placid lake.
Mark Thibodeaux is onto something when comparing prayer to fishing. We certainly experience God in prayer (catching), but often we wait (casting). And this is okay because as much as we celebrate God's felt presence, prayer isn't chasing the thrill of one divine catch after another.
Prayer is a relationship, and time spent together is not wasted time.
Listen to how Thibodeaux puts it:
"A great deal of my time spent in prayer will involve waiting for the next treasure, feeling for an opening into the solitude, leaning into being. This waiting, feeling and leaning is not wasted time. My soul grows as much or more from waiting on the Lord as from receiving some concrete gift. In fact, the waiting itself is a treasure. Unlike fishing, the casting alone is the catching." (Source)
When prayer is less about results and more about relationship, then we're ready to begin.
Childlike Prayer grows us into Adults
As a child, I didn't enjoy the mechanics of fishing, but I enjoyed being with my dad.
In the same way, we may not always enjoy the mechanics of prayer. But if we get into the proverbial boat and stick with it, we certainly can grow in our enjoyment of being with our Father.
And isn't that the point?
A big part of my work as a spiritual director is helping people grow in their relationship with God through prayer. If you desire greater intimacy with God, reach out. I'd love to help.